Your rights as a motorist - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Your rights as a motorist

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You get pulled over for a traffic violation. The officer addresses the violation, but then he takes it further. The officer thinks you're doing something illegal. What can the officer do?

Attorney Karen Thalacker says in general, a police officer can ask you anything. It's up to how you want to respond. Thalacker says being polite is always better than being hostile.

When it comes to searches, Thalacker says, the officer needs probable cause to search the inside of the car. A simple traffic violation isn't enough.

But if the officer smells marijuana, or sees a gun in the passenger seat, for example, that constitutes probable cause.

Thalacker says many times people will consent to a search thinking compliance will end it there. She adds that sometimes people think if they say no, they'll seem guilty.

Thalacker says there is a big misconception of what happens next. Many people believe if officers don't read Miranda rights, everything said during the interaction can be thrown out. That actually isn't true -- that rule only applies if an officer has you in custody. If you're being pulled over, you're not in custody, you're just being temporarily detained.

Thalacker says the best thing to do in that sort of situation is to be calm and polite. Being hostile during a traffic stop wont help, whether you're guilty or not.

She says if you feel like you're being unjustly targeted and police do not find probable cause, you don't have to consent to a search and you can always request a lawyer before things go further. 

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